Doug Robinson: Andrews incident has its irony

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 4 2009 12:52 a.m. MDT

Maybe you people over here in the B Section – two sections north of Sports – have missed the Erin Andrews story.

Maybe you don't even know who she is.

Erin Andrews is a female sideline reporter for ESPN, the sports cable TV giant.

She is also considered a "hottie" in the parlance of the day. Blonde, beautiful and shapely, she has a following. A male following.

This means lots of attention, which her network bosses certainly don't mind and which has propelled her into celebrity status that eludes most journalists.

It brings her much attention — sometimes more than she wants. Last month, someone took video of Andrews through the peephole of a hotel door while she was nude.

You can guess the rest. It was posted on the Internet and became a sensation. Since then, she has been hounded by paparazzi, causing Andrews at one point to call 911 to complain that she was being treated like Britney Spears.

Let's get this out of the way: Andrews does not deserve what happened to her in the hotel room. Whoever took the video is creepy and unethical and violated any standard of common decency. Imagine the fear and humiliation that an unwanted presence in your room would instill in you. Nothing written here should be construed to condone in any way that act.

Beyond that, if nothing else, the incident illustrates the uneasy alliance of women and sports, one that wades into many gray areas.

Andrews has exercised restraint, but she has hardly resisted her image as a pinup girl. She is a willing participant in a Sports Illustrated Web site called "Hot Clicks," which features daily photos of scantily clad women who often have little or no connection to sports. Some have noted Andrews' penchant for sexy outfits and tight clothing. USA Today columnist Christine Brennan reportedly Twittered, "Women journalists need to be smart and not play to the frat house."

Actually, Andrews is just doing her job.

Let's be honest. Women certainly are qualified to handle any of these reporting jobs, but the reason that sideline reporting is dominated by women is because some network executives decided long ago that they wanted a way to appeal to the male audience. Or did you think that there is a shortage of men who know something about football and could perform the same duty? And did you wonder why there are virtually no women in the broadcast booth where they can't be seen? And did you think it was a coincidence that the majority of sideline reporters happen to be attractive, while the few men still holding down those jobs are guys who look like Jim Gray and not Brad Pitt?

Wrong or right, women are there to handle a lightweight journalism job and look good and win over an audience. In the case of Andrews, it works. Playboy magazine named Andrews its Sexiest Sportscaster, twice. There are Web sites devoted to her. Her photos get thousands of Internet hits. Sports Illustrated is obsessed with her. She is photographed and interviewed everywhere, a journalist on the other side of the camera and the notebook.

And then she got the nutcase with the video camera and a hole in the door.

That's attention she didn't want, but it's certainly an unfortunate part of her cultivated celebrity.

It's difficult to reconcile the abject hypocrisy of our culture, especially the sports and celebrity cultures. There is a lot of talk about recognizing women for their skills and not their looks, and then women are treated like sex objects, with the willing participation of the women.

Sports Illustrated, which considers itself a beacon for women's sports and women's rights and Title IX, publishes an annual magazine swimsuit issue, and its Web site features a daily gallery of photos featuring women wearing miniscule swimsuits or nothing more than paint. NFL and NBA games feature "cheerleaders" wearing little more than underwear. You can hardly name a successful professional female athlete who hasn't posed for a photo with little or no clothing. Good luck making sense out of any of it.

Doug Robinson's column runs on Tuesdays. Please send e-mail to drob@desnews.com.

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